These are tips generally made outside the game that can help it run smoothly, and help avoid stuck sims, crash errors, or other problems
Tip 1: Use a SSD drive if possible
The Sims 3 uses a lot of different packages for content, especially when you have many Expansion Packs and store content installed. That leads to a lot of small and random disk access, which on a conventional Hard Disk Drive (HDD) can really slow the game down while it fetches content from many different files.
Solid State Drives (SSDs) can mitigate this issue due to their lightning fast random access, and not needing any defragmentation. They are relatively cheap now too, so are a great way to help your Sims 3 experience. Even an external SSD using USB 3.0 (the faster implementation of an external connection) can be much faster than an internal conventional hard drive.
Tip 2: Don't install the game to the Program Files folder
Avoiding the game's default install path can save you headaches later on. Especially if you need to update files (like for adding your modern graphics card to the GraphicsCards.sgr and GraphicsRules.sgr files). It also prevents the need to use elevated privileges to update the files and prevents any changed files caching in the C:\ProgramData folder. Use the Custom Install on the disc version, or change Origin's default install directory to something like C:\Games\The Sims 3\, or install on another faster drive like a SSD on D:\Games\The Sims 3\.
Tip 3: Kill the TS3 Launcher after starting the game
If you use the Sims 3 Launcher to start the game, you may not be aware that it sits in the system tray and chews up CPU cycles doing virtually nothing at all while you play. That takes processing power away from your game, so it's a good idea to switch back to the Desktop and terminate it.
Simply Alt-Tab to the Windows Desktop, then find the system tray in the lower right area of the Start bar. Find the TS3 Launcher logo and right click it, then click "Close" and confirm it. You can then Alt-Tab back to your game and enjoy smoother performance.
If you don't really need to use the Launcher (most of us don't after having installed worlds and content), you can launch the game directly by creating a shortcut to the TS3.exe on your desktop.
Tip 4: Either disable your Anti-Virus, or add a Whitelist item for TS3.exe while you play
Anti-virus programs intercept calls to the hard drive and tend to check files every time an access is made. For TS3 that can lead to excessive stutter. It's recommended to add a Whitelist item for TS3.exe (and the TS3 Launcher) to your Anti-Virus if you can. If you aren't sure how to, you can simply disable your AV temporarily while you play.
Tip 5: Don't delete your cache files unless you're troubleshooting or changing worlds!
This may conflict with what many people do regularly - clearing their cache files thinking that it helps their game run better. In fact, it hurts game performance immensely when you do so. Unless you are actively troubleshooting a problem with your game or your save, or you are loading a different home world up, do not clear your cache files.
The reasoning is simple, and based on how TS3 caches files in the first place. When a resource is needed (like a texture on an object), TS3 goes and checks the cache files first (operation #1). If it finds the resource there, it passes it to in-game memory and moves on happily. If it doesn't find it there, it has to go to other resource files to try and find the requested info, which can take a LOT longer (operation #2). When it finally finds the requested resource, it saves a copy of it in the game cache (operation #3), and then passes a copy back to the in-game memory.
All the extra seeking, reading, writing to the cache.. will happen many more times than necessary if you clear your cache all the time. Some people like to clean their cache files every time they exit/start the game. This is totally unnecessary and leads to all the extra engine activity mentioned above, which slows your game down every time it happens.
For the best game performance possible - leave your cache alone. The only exceptions as listed, are when you are trying to troubleshoot a problem with your game or your save. Or, when you start using a different home world (i.e. a different game in a different world). In those cases clearing the cache can be helpful. The rest of the time, just let the game fill them up and continue using them.
Additionally, don't delete the \DBCache folder's .tmp files. If you have a lot of objects, worlds, and other custom/store content installed, it has to rebuild those cache files and makes the Launcher excruciatingly slow to open the next time you run it.
Note: if playing on a Mac, do not manually delete your cache files.
Tip 6: Prevent TS3 from downloading files to the FeaturedItems folder
The Sims 3 will download and save a huge number of images to your Featured Items subfolder, as part of Origin's effort to get you to buy items from the store while in-game. It does this automatically, even if you previously deleted everything in that folder, every time you launch the game. Not only can this slow down the game, it will take up a large amount of space on your drive, and vastly increases the number of items in the Sims 3 data folders.
Crinrict's blog has a good guide on how to disable automatic downloading into the Featured Items folder, and it is highly recommended.
Tip 7: Allow Sims easier pathing past each other and objects
Sims often need too much space to path past each other, and around objects. The default settings are both unrealistic, and far too restrictive. To alleviate this problem, you need to do some fairly simple edits to your Sims3.ini file.
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To find your Sims3.ini file, you need to browse to your TS3 installation folder, typically found in one of these two locations:
- (Disc Version) C:\Program Files (x86)\Electronic Arts\The Sims 3\Game\Bin
- (Origin Version) C:\Program Files (x86)\Origin Games\The Sims 3\Game\Bin
If you have a shortcut to either TS3.exe or the TS3 Launcher already on your Desktop, you can open the folder easily by right-clicking the shortcut, and choosing "Open file location".
Once you've found the Sims3.ini file, double-click it to edit it, and find the following section: [Config] It is usually the 6th section in the file. Then look for these five (5) lines under it:
- DynamicAvoidance_FieldRadius = 0.15
- DynamicAvoidance_InactiveFieldLength = 3.0
- DynamicAvoidance_MinNonIntersectingDistance = 0.24
- DynamicAvoidance_FieldLengthPad = 0.6
- DynamicAvoidance_StopDistanceMultiplier = 1.85
You need to change the values on the end of each line so they match the following:
- DynamicAvoidance_FieldRadius = 0.1
- DynamicAvoidance_InactiveFieldLength = 0.1
- DynamicAvoidance_MinNonIntersectingDistance = 0.1
- DynamicAvoidance_FieldLengthPad = 0.1
- DynamicAvoidance_StopDistanceMultiplier = 0.1
After making the edits, save and close the text file. The changes tell the AI/Routing system that it is able to make sims walk closer to each other and objects without encountering a "routing failure" or blockage. Sims will more easily path around/past things now, and many prior bottlenecks will be fixed without changing lot architecture.
Tip 8: Use Full-Screen mode with Vsync and Triple-Buffering
To help your game not render beyond the ability of your monitor to display frames, and to help with smoother scrolling, using specific Video settings.
First, set the game to run in Full Screen mode. This is required so that you can then utilize Vsync. In the game's Options, there is a setting for Full Screen which should be toggled on, and if possible set the resolution to your monitor's native resolution. It may also not be obvious, but you can enable VSync in The Sims 3 by going into the Options menu and change the refresh rate on the Graphics screen from Default (uncapped) to your monitor's refresh rate - usually 60. If you ever change resolutions, make sure to update the refresh rate, as it will switch back to Default. Save those options and then exit the game.
Then you need to change settings in your Video card's control panel (either Nvidia or ATI). You are looking to force Vsync on for the game (limiting the FPS it renders at), and then also force Triple-Buffering on. For instructions you may need to google your particular manufacturer instructions for opening it's control panel.
With these options set, the game won't waste CPU/GPU cycles rendering frames it never displays, but it will prepare one (1) frame ahead (due to Triple-Buffering) which can help immensely with smooth scrolling.
If you want to cap your FPS without using Vsync, we recommend using a utility like RivaTuner Statistics Server (RTSS), which also comes bundled with MSI Afterburner. It is a very efficient and effective solution to cap FPS at whatever rate you desire.